Swiss radio and television: Debacle at SRF: The breakdowns in the new television studios cost the fee payers 400,000 francs per month

swiss radio and television

Debacle at SRF: The breakdowns in the new television studios cost the fee payers 400,000 francs per month

They should have been operational in 2019, but are still not working. Repairing SRF’s television studios is devouring millions because 30 technicians are busy fixing the deficiencies. Is that why Swiss television is canceling so many programs?

Endless mishaps: The new SRF news and sports center in Zurich.


466 employees of Swiss television – around a fifth of the workforce – signed a letter to management last December. You are calling for “urgently more transparency and honest communication” about the conversion of the station. The letter also contains interesting information.

The authors would like to know: Is it true that because of the delay in commissioning the television studios in the new news and sports center, “CHF 400,000 a month is lost?” The studios should have broadcast from November 2019; the start has been postponed several times.

Evasive answers from Swiss television

Research in this newspaper now shows: The sum of 400,000 francs per month mentioned by the SRF employees is correct. The amount arises from the fact that 30 technicians are busy getting the problems under control. In addition, the company has to write off technical equipment twice.

With the new studios, Swiss television is relying on a technology that has hardly been tested and has not yet worked. SRF hopes that the first programs can be broadcast from the studios from mid-2021. That would correspond to a delay of almost two years. The debacle costs SRF around 10 million francs.

SRF employees are asking themselves: Could some of the 200 or so jobs that SRF Director Nathalie Wappler wants to cut by autumn 2021 be saved if the company got to work more professionally with the infrastructure? Does Wappler sacrifice some established radio and television programs because they use large resources to remedy technical fiasco? The list of eliminated shipments grows monthly.

The costs go through the roof: SRF director Nathalie Wappler.

The costs go through the roof: SRF director Nathalie Wappler.

Gaetan Bally / KEYSTONE

The employees at Leutschenbach accuse the SRF management in their letter of not engaging in “transparent communication”, but rather using “management pods and meaningless swurps”. The answers given by the SRF media office to the questions about cost overruns are also not overly clear.

For example, the media office writes that the investments are not being made from fees, but primarily by means that would be gained “through the return of rental properties and the sale of properties that are no longer required”. This distinction makes no sense. If SRF didn’t have to plug financial holes for dysfunctional technology, income from property sales could be used for programs and employee wages. The operation of Swiss television is fed by a large box office, not several. The Swiss population’s household tax is by far the most important source of income.

Growing displeasure among employees

The media office emphasizes, however, that there is no connection between the investment costs for the new studios and the “measures due to the SRF 2024 transformation project” – which is associated with numerous savings.

In addition, thanks to the new building with modern technology and optimized use of space, operating costs could be reduced in the long term and permanently. Overall, SRF did not incur any additional costs that would affect the annual result because the schedules of other projects had been adjusted. Swiss television does not have to take any additional cost-saving measures.

Last December, SRF spokesman Stefan Wyss said when asked about the costs of the striking technology:

“Of course, every extension of the project time costs money.”

The media office at Leutschenbach does not deny that the amount is 400,000 francs per month.

The SRG’s internal auditors will check what went wrong with the ordering and installation of the new television studios. On request, SRG President Jean-Michel Cina stated that the review would begin as soon as the project was completed. The SRG general management and the SRF management submitted the application for the examination together.

In their letter, the SRF employees also raise the following questions: Is it worth running the culture department in Basel? Is it true that the management of radio and television has spent several million francs on consulting mandates? Management has been taking part in video conferences since December. Employees say that their superiors tried to appear as if they were responding to their subordinates’ concerns. The information content of the information was not huge.

Many employees do not understand the criteria according to which Nathalie Wappler cancels programs. «Why these programs? Are they too expensive, too old-fashioned, or do they appeal to the wrong audience? ”Reads the letter. The questions are still in the room as before.

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